Antibiotics Before the Dentist

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. More often than not, when you go to the dentist, it’s the ounce of prevention that you’re getting; a thorough teeth cleaning where tartar is removed, gums are checked, and oral health is discussed. There are times where you might get a cavity filled, or gum disease examined, but getting these issues resolved leads to less problems down the line. The preventive, non-invasive element of dental care means it’s safe for pretty much everyone to get their teeth cleaned, even pregnant women. There are, however, times when your dentist might ask you to take preventive antibiotics before going in for care. When does this occur, and why?

Your mouth is full of bacteria, some helpful, some harmful. When you get a thorough dental cleaning done, these bacteria are released from your gums and other regions into the bloodstream. This might occur even when you’re taking an action as simple as brushing your teeth; of course, far fewer bacteria are introduced to the bloodstream through routine oral health care than when a full scale cleaning is done. For most people, this doesn’t cause any long term problems; our immune systems are strong enough that the bacteria don’t cause infection.

The exception to this rule is people who have a variety of heart conditions; the bacteria flow quickly from the bloodstream to the heart, so those prone to heart infections should be on antibiotics before they go to the dentist. This is also true for people with prosthetic heart valves, and those who have a number of serious, congenital heart conditions. People with cardiac transplants that have developed issues may also be at risk of heart infection.

Taking antibiotics before visiting the dentist is known as antibiotic prophylaxis; a discussing with your Winnipeg dental office before you have your cleaning done will help you understand if antibiotic prophylaxis is right for you. For quite some time, a number of other conditions could make dentists consider preventive antibiotics for you. People with artificial joints, less severe congenital heart issues, and other heart problems would often receive antibiotics before appointments. Why has this stopped?

Anytime a medical professional considers giving a drug of any type to a patient, they must weigh the risks of the drug against the potential benefits. This is especially true of preventive measures; these antibiotics aren’t, after all, being used to treat an infection; rather, they’re used in case an infection occurs. This automatically means the risks weigh a little bit more than they otherwise would; it’s possible no infection develops, whether you’re on antibiotics or not. The risks posed by antibiotics are twofold. The first risk is an adverse reaction by the patient; these reactions can range from mild to severe. The second risk is a bit more universal. The overuse of antibiotic has created a serious problem: drug-resistant bacteria. This has made practitioners more reluctant to use antibiotics in a preventive capacity unless the patient is at high risk of developing an infection.